Talking about vegetables and going through the extensive list is like taking a never-ending walk in endless mine field. There are so many Bengali/Indian vegetables, it is unbelievable the range of dishes that is made across Asia and the subcontinent that share and enjoy the same vegetables.
I found it interesting during my research to read that many of our select vegetables cross over to many parts of the world.
In particular I was fascinated by a select number that are poisonous raw due to toxins but are staples nationally and have been eaten for hundreds of years. Although a little frightening on reading it amazes me how people have adapted and learnt to prepare them in such a way that they become safe, edible and are a staple primary food source particularly in some Third World countries.
I feel quite proud in the fact that I can honestly say I have eaten and tried every single vegetable that I have listed, which are used every day in Bengali cuisine and throughout India.
It’s an expansive read, an interesting read and certainly I think for many it will peak in interest for further research on the internet.
Nearly 100 different types of vegetables comprising both local and exotic type are grown in Bengal and India.
I have listed the most used using the English name followed by Bengali then other references.
I hope this glossary might help when l mention dishes using them in the future.
In alphabetical order:
Ash Guord – Chal Kumra:
The wax gourd also called ash gourd, white gourd, winter gourd, tallow gourd, ash pumpkin, winter melon, Chinese preserving melon and (Alu) Puhul, is a vine grown for its very large fruit, eaten as a vegetable when mature.
The fruit is covered in a fuzzy coating of fine hairs when young. The immature melon has thick white flesh that tastes sweet. By maturity, the fruit loses its hairs and develops a waxy coating, giving rise to the name wax gourd. The wax coating helps to give the fruit a long shelf life. The melon may grow as large as 80 cm in length. It has yellow flowers and broad leaves.
The taste is rather bland.
There are various dishes made with it, ChalKumro’r Bora, Chalkumro ghonto, Chalkumror dudh curry, Chal kumro with mung dal, etc.
Banana flower – Kolar Thor:
Banana blossom, also known as a “banana heart”, is a fleshy, purple-skinned flower, shaped like a tear, which grows at the end of a banana fruit cluster. Traditionally used in south-east Asian and Indian cooking, it can also be eaten raw and its chunky, flaky texture makes it an ideal substitute for fish.
Banana blossom has quite a neutral flavour, so it absorbs flavours really well. banana flowers have abundant uses in the kitchen, including soup, stir fries, meat and vegetable stews and salads. The inner petals, or bracts, are the edible parts. Eaten straight off the cutting board, they are starchy and bitter.
Banana stems are most popularly cooked in stews or are consumed raw in juice form.The tender core of the banana trunk is edible but when preparing Banana stems, be sure to remove any additional fibrous pieces that may come from the outer shell as these pieces are inedible and tough.
Its high fibre content creates a feeling of satiation and hence, reduces the intake of food. It also helps ease constipation. Banana stem is rich in potassium and vitamin B6 just like the fruit.
Bitter Gourd/melon – Kerala:
The fruit has a distinct warty exterior and an oblong shape. It is hollow in cross-section, with a relatively thin layer of flesh surrounding a central seed cavity filled with large, flat seeds and pith.
The fruit is most often eaten green, or as it is beginning to turn yellow. At this stage, the fruit’s flesh is crunchy and watery in texture, similar to cucumber, chayote or green bell pepper, but bitter. The skin is tender and edible. Seeds and pith appear white in unripe fruits; they are not intensely bitter and can be removed before cooking.
Bitter gourd is generally consumed cooked in the green or early yellowing stage. The young shoots and leaves of the bitter gourd may also be eaten as greens. The fruit is very bitter raw and can be soaked in cold water and drained to remove some of those strong flavours.
Cassava – Aipim:
Manihot esculenta, commonly called cassava, manioc, yuca, macaxeira, mandioca, aipim, and agbeli.
It is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates.
Cassava is predominantly consumed in boiled form, but substantial quantities are used to extract cassava starch, called tapioca, which is used for food, animal feed after rice and maize. A major staple food in the developing world, it provides a basic diet for over half a billion people.
It must be properly prepared before consumption, as improper preparation of cassava can leave enough residual cyanide to cause acute cyanide intoxication, Cassava roots, peels and leaves should not be consumed raw because they contain two cyanogenic glucosides, linamarin and lotaustralin. Once they are thoroughly boiled they are very similar in texture to yam and have a nutty flavour. Made in crisps, chips and cooked as potatoes.
Daikon – Mula, Mulo Radish, Mooli:
Mooli (it’s Indian name) is also known as daikon or Chinese radish, and widely used in Asian cooking. A long white crunchy vegetable from the radish family, daikon. Some types are small with pink-tinged skin or flesh; others are white and can grow up to 30cm long.
It is similar in appearance to fresh horseradish but packs a lighter peppery punch similar to watercress. Unlike other radishes, it is as good cooked as it is raw. It is also known as mooli.
It’s very versatile and is good both raw and cooked.
You can grate or slice it and add it raw to a salad or slaw.
Try it Bengali-style, mixed with fresh chilli, chopped coriander, lime juice and a pinch of salt, then (if you like) serve with steamed fish.
Drumstick -Saujane data, Sajane Daute:
Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree of the family Moringaceae, native to the Indian subcontinent. Common names include moringa, drumstick tree, horseradish tree, and ben oil tree or benzolive tree
Edible parts of the plant include the whole leaves (leaflets, stalks and stems); the immature, green fruits or seed pods; the fragrant flowers; and the young seeds and roots.
The young, slender fruits, commonly known as “drumsticks”, are prepared as a culinary vegetable, often cut into shorter lengths and stewed in curries and soups. The taste is described as reminiscent of asparagus,[
with a hint of green beans, though sweeter, from the immature seeds contained inside.
In India and Bangladesh, drumstick curries are commonly prepared by boiling immature pods to the desired level of tenderness in a mixture of coconut milk and spices (such as poppy or mustard seeds).
The fruit is a common ingredient in dals and lentil soups, such as drumstick dal and sambar, where it is pulped first, then simmered with other vegetables and spices like turmeric and cumin.
Mashed drumstick pulp commonly features in bhurta, a mixture of lightly fried or curried vegetables.
Because the outer skin is tough and fibrous, drumsticks are often chewed to extract the juices and nutrients, with the remaining fibrous material discarded. Others describe a slightly different method of sucking out the flesh and tender seeds and discarding the tube of skin.
Eddoes – Muki:
Eddoes are small root vegetables, a variety of Taro. They offer an intensely flavourful alternative to standard potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams and can be prepared and eaten in much the same way. Don’t be put off by their appearance, its barrel-shaped outside has inedible “hairy” skin. as after removing the rough brown skin with a peeler they can be easily prepared.
Inside its flesh can range from white to gray. Eddoes have a light crumbly texture with a slightly sweet flavor, somewhat like a potato. Like a potato, eddoes can be roasted, fried or boiled.
This root is poisonous if large amounts are consumed raw, but when it gets cooked these harmful substances disappear. After it’s cooked the eddoe is edible and has a delicious nutty flavour.
Green banana – Kanch Kola:
Green bananas may provide some additional nutrients and benefits that yellow bananas do not. They’re rich in resistant starch and pectin, which are filling, improve digestive health and help lower blood sugar levels.
Make sure your banana is dark green and not showing any yellow. It should feel firm to touch and not give when pressed. When cooked it has a lovely yam texture with a slight bite. Very nutty and versatile prepared with vegetable, meat and fish dishes.
Green Jackfruit, Kantal, Katol:
The Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), also known as Jack tree. Its origin is in the region between the Western Ghats of southern India and the rainforests of Malaysia.
Jackfruit is commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisines. The jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and the state fruit of the Indian states of Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. It is available internationally canned or frozen and in chilled meals as are various products derived from the fruit such as noodles and chips.
Canned jackfruit has a mild taste and meat-like texture that lends itself to being called a “vegetable meat”.
The cuisines of many Asian countries use cooked young jackfruit. In many cultures, jackfruit is boiled and used in curries as a staple food. The boiled young jackfruit is used in salads or as a vegetable in spicy curries and side dishes, and as fillings for cutlets and chops. It may be used by vegetarians as a substitute for meat such as pulled pork. It may be cooked with coconut milk and eaten alone or with meat, shrimp or smoked pork. In southern India, unripe jackfruit slices are deep-fried to make chips.
The seeds from ripe fruits are edible, and have a milky, sweet taste often compared to Brazil nuts. They may be boiled, baked, or roasted. When roasted, the flavor of the seeds is comparable to chestnuts. Seeds are used as snacks (either by boiling or fire-roasting) or to make desserts. In Java, the seeds are commonly cooked and seasoned with salt as a snack. They are commonly used in curry in India in the form of a traditional lentil and vegetable mix curry. Young leaves are tender enough to be used as a vegetable.
Green papaya – Pepe:
Green papaya is used in Southeast Asian cooking, both raw and cooked. In some parts of Asia, the young leaves of the papaya are steamed and eaten like spinach.
While raw papaya in grated form can be eaten raw in salads, raw papaya can be cut into cubes and steamed for 5-7 minutes or cooked on stove top with some water or pressure cooked.
It’s used for salads, tenderising meat, for soups, in curries, boiled, and in pickles.
Hyacinth Beans – shim, uri:
There are a few varieties of this bean – some have purple edges and others are completely purple in colour.
Young beans are used in curries and stir-fry. However, my family prefer to use it to boil soup.
Bangladesh and West Bengal, the pods and the beans are cooked as vegetables or cooked with fish as a curry. In Vietnam, the beans are used in making chè đậu ván (Hyacinth Bean Sweet Soup) and in Africa.
The fruit and beans are edible if boiled well with several changes of the water. Otherwise, they are toxic due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides, glycosides that are converted to hydrogen cyanide when consumed.
Khol Rabbi – Olkopi:
Kohlrabi has been created by artificial selection, its origin in nature is the same as that of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts: they are all bred from, and are the same species as, the wild cabbage plant.
The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin.
kohlrabi stem is frequently used raw in salad or slaws. It has a texture similar to that of a broccoli stem, but with a flavor that is sweeter and less vegetal.
Kohlrabi leaves are edible and can be used interchangeably with collard greens and kale.
Kohlrabi is an important part of the Kashmiri cuisine, where it is called Mŏnji. It is one of the most commonly cooked vegetables, along with collard greens (shaakh). It is prepared with its leaves and served with a light soup and eaten with rice.
Malabar spinach – Pui shak:
Malabar spinach or Basella alba is an edible perennial vine in the family Basellaceae. It is found in tropical Asia and Africa where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable.
In Bengali cuisine it is widely used both in a vegetable dish, cooked with red pumpkin, and in non-vegetarian dishes, cooked with Ilish fish and may also be cooked with shrimps.
There are two varieties – green and red. The stem of the Basella alba is green with green leaves and the stem of the cultivar Basella alba ‘Rubra’ is reddish-purple; the leaves form green and as the plant reaches maturity, older leaves will develop a purple pigment starting at the base of the leaf and work towards the end. The stem when crushed usually emits a strong earthy sappy scent. Malabar spinach can be found at many Asian supermarkets, as well as farmers’ markets.
Okra – Dharosh, dheddosh, Bhindi, Lady Finger:
Are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic “goo” or slime when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains soluble fiber. One possible way to de-slime okra is to cook it with an acidic food, such as tomatoes. To render the mucilage less viscous are cooked, pickled, eaten raw, or included in salads.
Young okra leaves may be cooked in a similar way to the greens of beets or dandelions, or in salads. Okra seeds may be roasted and ground to form a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.
Pointed gourd- Parwal, Potol, Patol or Green potato:
Potol as I know them, are green fruits and a part of the CUCURBITACEAE family, similar to a cucumber and squash.
Potol have a rather tough smooth skin when young, transforming to a burnt orange when mature and can have a light striping running lengthwise.
The flesh is a creamy, white, moist and firm with a central cavity filled with slippery small seeds. Potol is mild and allowing it to absorb accompanying flavours and has a soft texture when cooked. It’s usually available from mid summer to mid fall.
This veg is highly regarded in India for its nutritive value and digestibility. It is considered a luxury item that can be expensive in the marketplace.
It is best suited for cooking in stir frying, sautéing boiling. Should be preferably peeled tips removed and sliced with any tough seeds discarded.
Red Amaranth – Lal Shak:
Lal shak (red, leafy vegetable) is a very common, fast growing and cheap vegetable of Bangladesh. People eat lal shak due to its attractive colour and taste.
It is native to South and Southeast Asia and is one of the most important and widely cultivated species of amaranth. It is consumed in both cooked and raw form. A tricolor is also used in traditional medicine.
It is commonly cooked with onions, tomatoes and peanut sauce. There id also green variety.
Ridge Gourd – Jhinga, Titoria, Turai, Turiya:
Luffa acutangula is a vigorous annual climbing plant producing long stems that scramble over the ground or climb into nearby vegetation, supporting themselves by means of tendrils.
Jhinga is a dark green, ridged and tapering pretty vegetable. It has white pulp with white seeds embedded in spongy flesh. A ridge gourd is a well beloved in India.
A popular vegetable in southeast Asia, where the mildly bitter flavour, the slightly spongy texture and sweet juiciness are appreciated
This green fleshy vegetable has an intrinsically bland and insipid taste. Hence, it is commonly used to prepare many customary “desi” dishes such as pakoras, sambhar, dal, chutney and raita, after being adequately seasoned with spices, to enhance its flavour.
Mature fruits are used as natural cleaning sponges, left on the tree your Jhinga becomes the bathroom luffa!
Snake Gourd- Chichingga:
Snake gourds are bright green, thin-skinned gourds which can grow as long as 2 meters (6 ft). Since they have a tendency to curl they can frequently be seen with rocks tied to them to keep them straight. They should be rubbed with salt to remove the downy surface of the skin and can then be cut open, the central core of seeds removed and then cubed or sliced for adding to stews and rasams. They do not have a great deal of flavour. Very similar to Ridge gourd.
Teasel Gourd/Spiny Gourd – Kakrol:
Momordica dioica, commonly known as spiny gourd or spine gourd and also known as bristly balsam pear, prickly carolaho, teasle gourd, kantola, is a species of flowering plant in the Cucurbitaceae/gourd family. It is used as a vegetable in all regions of India and some parts in South Asia. Teasel gourds are available during the monsoon season in India, which is in the late spring through summer.
The fruits are cooked with spices, or fried and sometimes eaten with meat or fish.
Teasel gourds can be consumed with the skin on and are best suited for cooked applications such as roasting, baking, and frying. They are often marinated for fritters and fried, stuffed with coconut and mustard, or used in fish stew. The spiky skin is cut away and the gourd cut in half, the seeds are scooped out with a spoon and added to a mixture of spices and chiles for the filling. After stuffing, the seed and spice mixture is spooned into the hollow cavity of the Teasel gourd and is dipped in batter and fried in oil until browned. Teasel gourds can also be sliced and peeled into several rounds, dusted with rice flour and spices, and pan-fried. In addition to the flesh, the seeds can be roasted and consumed as a snack. Teasel gourds pair well with coriander, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, curry leaves, garlic, onions, peanuts, and rice. They will keep 1-2 weeks when stored in the refrigerator.
Taro stalks/stems/leaves – Latha – Kochu Pata, Kochu Mura:
Taro stems are the young leaf stalks, or petioles, of the Taro plant. The plant most often known for its starchy tuber has much more to offer in its edible shoots, stems and leaves. Often the young, as-yet unrolled leaves and stems are harvested together, and cooked together in vegetable dishes, soups or in various cuisines. While consuming cooked taro leaves may offer some health benefits, it’s important to note that the raw leaves are poisonous before cooking.
Taro – Kochu:
Colocasia esculenta is a tropical plant grown primarily for its edible corms.
People usually consume its edible corm and leaves. The corms are roasted, baked or boiled. The natural sugars give a sweet, nutty flavor. The starch is easily digestible, and since the grains are fine and small it is often used for baby food. Young taro leaves and stems can be eaten after boiling twice to remove the acrid flavor. The leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.
In its raw form, the plant is toxic due to the presence of calcium oxalate and the presence of needle-shaped raphides in the plant cells. However, the toxin can be minimized and the tuber rendered palatable by cooking or by steeping in cold water overnight.
Taro is a very popular vegetable known as kochu or mukhi. It is usually cooked with small prawns or the Ilish fish into a curry, but some dishes are cooked with dried fish. Its green leaves, kochu pata, and stem, kochu, are also eaten as a favorite dish and usually ground to a paste or finely chopped to make shak — but it must be boiled well beforehand. Taro stolons or stems, kochur loti, are also favored by Bengali’s and cooked with shrimp, dried fish or the head of the ilish fish.
Taro is available, either fresh or frozen, in most Asian stores and supermarkets specialising in Bangladeshi or South Asian food. Also, another variety called maan kochu is consumed and is a rich source of vitamins and nutrients. Maan Kochu is made into a paste and fried to prepare a delicious food known as Kochu Bata.
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